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February 1 2015

Have gamma rays killed off alien life? Extreme radiation may explain why we have not spotted ET


Powerful bursts of radiation may have wiped out life on the majority of other planets and even caused a major extinction on Earth, according to research.

Physicists have calculated that gamma-ray bursts - caused by some of the largest explosions in the universe - may have prevented the development of complex life in 90 per cent of galaxies.

The intense high energy radiation given off by these explosions is known to be lethal to even the most hardy of organisms and can strip away important gases in the atmosphere.

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February 1 2015

Missing link in metal physics explains Earth's magnetic field


Earth's magnetic field shields the life on our planet's surface from cosmic rays. It is generated by turbulent motions of liquid iron in Earth's core. Iron is a metal, which means it can easily conduct a flow of electrons. New findings show that a missing piece of the traditional theory explaining why metals become less conductive when they are heated was needed to complete the puzzle of this field-generating process.


Related: Metal explosions 'driven by charge'

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February 1 2015

Eyeglasses that turn into sunglasses—at your command


Imagine eyeglasses that can go quickly from clear to shaded and back again when you want them to, rather than passively in response to changes in light. Scientists report a major step toward that goal, which could benefit pilots, security guards and others who need such control, in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

When wearers are driving or wearing a baseball cap, for example, the lenses stay clear rather than switching to a darker shade even in broad daylight.

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February 1 2015

Organ donors gave more than 2 million years of life to sick patients


Hearts, kidneys and other donated organs have added more than 2 million years to the lives of the American patients who received them, according to a new analysis.

That tally, published this week by the journal JAMA Surgery, covers 25 years of organ donation in the U.S. Researchers started with 1987, the year when the United Network for Organ Sharing began keeping track of all organ transplants in the U.S.

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February 1 2015

Vertical Gardens Beat Soil Made Salty by Climate Change


KHULNA, BANGLADESH—The soil in Knolkhol village in southwest Bangladesh has become increasingly salty because of incursions of seawater. The situation became particularly acute in the aftermath of Cyclone Aila in 2009, which brought storm surges that broke embankments and flooded farmland. After 2009 vegetable crops planted in the ground there yielded only meager returns—if they didn’t fail completely.

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February 1 2015

2,500-Year-Old Pharaonic Carvings, Two Obelisks Discovered in Egypt


A unique 2,500-year-old wall relief showing an unidentified pharaoh and two deities, a rare depiction of obelisks being cut and loaded onto boats, and two large sandstone obelisks have been discovered within the ancient quarry of Gebel el Silsila, 65 km north of Aswan, by archaeologists from the Gebel el Silsila Survey Project.

The ancient wall relief (46 x 38.5 cm in size) shows an unidentified Egyptian pharaoh presenting offerings to the gods Amun-Ra and Thoth, a unique combination rarely depicted as a pair. The combination of the pair may be due to a lunar aspect of the cult at Gebel el Silsila.

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January 31 2015

650-Year Drought Triggered Ancient City's Abandonment


A once-thriving Mesoamerican metropolis dried up about 1,000 years ago when below-average rainfall triggered centuries-long droughts that largely prompted people to abandon the city for greener opportunities, a new study finds.

Scientists have long debated whether it was drought or cultural forces that led to the abandonment of Cantona, a once-fortified city located just east of modern-day Mexico City.

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January 31 2015

Body Art: Otzi the 5,300-Year-Old Mummified Iceman Had 61 Tattoos


Four thin, black lines, stacked on top of each other, bring the total number of tattoos on Ötzi, a 5,300-year-old mummified iceman, to 61, according to an exhaustive new study.

Finding the new body art, located on the lower side of Ötzi's right ribcage, "was a big surprise because we didn't expect to see a new tattoo," said Albert Zink, the study's senior researcher and head of the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman at the European Research Academy in Italy.

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January 31 2015

How did humans evolve? Taiwan fossil complicates picture


Found sitting at the depths of a submarine channel off the shores of Taiwan, a recently discovered fossil may add another small piece to the puzzle of how humans evolved.

The fossil, a partial jaw with still­-attached teeth, is the first of an ancient hominin – a member of a taxonomic group that includes the genus Homo and its extinct relatives – found in Taiwan. And by exhibiting subtle differences between characteristics of the uncovered fossil and others located across the region, the discovery may provide further evidence that a variety of human lineages existed in eastern Asia thousands of years ago.

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January 31 2015

Hair Loss Cure Isn't Here Yet, But Experimental Stem Cell Approach Looks Promising


Hats off to researchers in California. They've taken what appears to be a big step toward the development of a cure for hair loss, a condition that affects 50 million men and 30 million women in the U.S. alone.

The scientists, working at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., showed that stem cells derived from human skin can be used to grow hair--at least in mice.

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January 31 2015

DNA clues could predict when people will die


A biological clock in people's DNA could tell could tell scientists how long they will live.

Researchers have found that chemical changes in DNA can help us understand people’s “biological age” — a measure of how old their body is that seems to be able to predict when people are going to die.

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January 31 2015

Animal DNA on the Go Seen for First Time


A type of DNA for the first time has been observed moving from one cell to another in animals.

Genetic material called mitochondria convert energy from food into a form that can be used by cells. In the experiment, a tumor cell without mitochondrial DNA formed tumors after pulling in DNA from normal cells.

“Our findings overturn the dogma that genes of higher organisms are usually constrained within cells except during reproduction,".

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January 31 2015

Baby chicks think small numbers belong on the left, just like us


A new study found that chicks associate the left side with smaller numbers and the right side with higher numbers.

To see how this relates to you, let's begin with our own, short experiment. Imagine the numbers 1-10 in a horizontal line.


Alt: Bird brain? Study says chicks count like we do

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January 31 2015

Baleen whales hear with their bones, study finds


A biologist and an engineer have published a study in the journal PLOS ONE that suggests the skulls of baleen whales have evolved the ability to feel sound in their bones.


Related: Ageing whales: Scars reveal social secrets - "By following them over four years and cataloguing them based on each individual's numerous scars, the scientists were able to reveal new social insights.Most striking were the long-term relationships the whales appeared to form."
Related: A rare megamouth shark just washed up in the Philippines

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January 31 2015

When Ant-Eating Bears Arrive, A Native Plant Thrives


Biologist Josh Grinath seized a rare chance to study an ecosystem from top to tiny bottom when a black bear blundered through his Rocky Mountain meadow research plot, gobbling up ants and gnawing on equipment.

When the hungry bear appeared, wreaking havoc on ant nests for a high-protein snack, Grinath decided to track the cascading effects of this top predator.


Related: Polar bear penises are getting weaker

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January 31 2015

Pitcher Plant Captures Prey in Batches


Carnivorous plants hold a place of special fascination in elementary science classrooms and botany labs alike. Many of these plants have an obviously predatory look about them (think: Venus flytrap). But pitcher plants, as successful as they are at capturing insects for their nutrients, don't make a lot of sense at first glance. A new study aims to make sense of the fact that the plants’ traps aren’t always slippery along the edges, even though a slippery edge would, in theory, catch more insects not sure of their footing.

A new study, published this month in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, that design quirk may be intentional.

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January 31 2015

New flower discovered in Australia smells like rotting fish


A new species of plant has been found in the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, Australia, and it sure does not smell like roses. Identified by local botanist Greg Steenbeeke from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, this little sunset-coloured, 2-centimetre-tall flower has been named Thismia megalongensis.

T. megalongensis belongs to a genus of plants commonly known as 'fairy lanterns', because their shape and warm, glowing colour make them look like you could just pick one up and light a room with it - if you were the height of an iPhone.

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